Magnesium may be as crucial to children's bone health as calcium, according to a small, early study.
While it's known that magnesium is important for adults' bone health, few studies have examined the nutrient's role in children's bones. This study found a significant association between magnesium intake and absorption, and bone density in children.
"Lots of nutrients are key for children to have healthy bones. One of these appears to be magnesium," lead author Steven Abrams, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release. "Calcium is important, but, except for those children and adolescents with very low intakes, may not be more important than magnesium."
The study included 63 healthy children, aged 4 to 8, who were not taking any multivitamins or minerals. Information about the children's eating habits was collected to determine their calcium and magnesium intake, and their calcium and magnesium levels were measured on two occasions.
The researchers found that the amounts of magnesium consumed and absorbed were key predictors of how much bone the children had, but calcium intake was not significantly associated with total bone mineral content or density.
The study was presented this past week at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, in Washington, D.C. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"We believe it is important for children to have a balanced, healthy diet with good sources of minerals, including both calcium and magnesium," Dr. Abrams concluded.
Foods with high levels of magnesium include salmon and almonds.
The study found an association between magnesium levels and bone density in children, but it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.